Here’s a crash course in Washington baseball history and the travails and triumphs that finally led the District back to the World Series.
1901-1960: Washington’s first Senators and title-winning Grays
1901 — The Western League of Professional Baseball Clubs renames itself the American League and moves its Kansas City franchise, the Blues, to Washington, where the team takes the name Senators.
1905 — The Senators change their name to the Nationals, but both names are used interchangeably, along with Nats. The team goes without a winning record in its first 11 years in Washington. Journalists jokingly write of the team, “First in war, first in peace, last in the American League,” playing off comments made in a eulogy written for George Washington.
1907 — Pitcher Walter Johnson breaks into the major leagues with the Senators at age 19. He goes on to play 21 seasons, all in Washington, and retires with the major league record for strikeouts.
1910 — The Murdock Grays, later renamed the Homestead Grays, are founded from a sandlot team of mostly black steelworkers outside Pittsburgh. The club turns professional in 1912 and eventually amasses a roster of legendary players, including Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell and Buck Leonard.
1911 — The Senators’ home stadium, Boundary Field, is destroyed in a fire. The team builds a 27,000-seat stadium at the site of the old facility. Originally named National Park and later renamed Griffith Stadium, it hosts baseball and other sporting events in the District until 1961.
1912 — Clark Griffith buys a 10 percent stake in the Senators and joins the team as a player-manager. He acquires controlling interest in the club in 1919.
1925 — The Senators return to the World Series with the same core but lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates, four games to three.
1933 — Griffith makes another young player, 26-year-old Joe Cronin, his manager, and again the Senators win the AL pennant. They lose to the Giants in the World Series in five games.
1937 — The Grays start a streak of dominance unmatched in professional baseball history. They win nine Negro National League pennants in a row from 1937 to 1945, considered a greater feat than winning a World Series because the championship matchups were not always an annual event.
1940 — The Grays adopt Washington as their “home away from home” after receiving years’ worth of warm welcomes from crowds at Griffith Stadium, sometimes drawing more fans than the Senators. In subsequent years, the team plays more games in the District than at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field.
1943 — The Grays defeat the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro World Series, four games to three. The series goes eight games after the second ended in a tie.
1944 — The Grays beat the Black Barons again, this time four games to one, for their second straight Negro World Series championship.
1945 — The Grays play for a third straight Negro World Series title but lose in a four-game sweep to the Cleveland Buckeyes. Game 3, a 4-0 Cleveland victory at Griffith Stadium, is the final World Series game played in the District for 74 years.
1948 — The Grays win the final Negro League World Series, four games to one, against the Black Barons, whose roster includes a 17-year-old Willie Mays. Experts consider it to be the final “major league” Negro League game played. Jackie Robinson integrated the majors in 1947, and big league teams began signing black players to farm system teams. The Negro National League folds after the series.
1951 — After playing as an independent club, the Grays fold.
1955 — Clark Griffith dies and Calvin Griffith, his nephew and adopted son, takes control of the Senators. Wary of competing for fans with the new Baltimore Orioles — the St. Louis Browns relocated to Maryland in 1954 — Griffith almost immediately contemplates moving the team to a new market.
1960 — Griffith announces his decision to move the team from Washington to Minneapolis. The relocated team is named the Twins in honor of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
1961-2004: Nation’s capital, without its pastime
1961 — Major League Baseball awards Washington a new franchise as a part of its expansion, and it is named the Senators. They play their first season at Griffith Stadium, then move to the newly built District of Columbia Stadium, later renamed in honor of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Managed at first by Mickey Vernon, the team is — again — bad. It goes eight years without a winning season.
1965 — The Twins franchise returns to the World Series for the first time since 1933. It loses in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
1968 — Businessman Bob Short buys the Senators and hires Hall of Famer Ted Williams as the manager. In 1969, the team posts its only winning season in Washington, with an 86-76 record.
1969 — MLB awards Montreal a franchise as a part of its expansion. The team takes the name Expos after the recently concluded Expo 67 World’s Fair, which the city hosted. It is the first MLB team outside the United States. It goes 10 years without a winning season.
1971 — Short moves his team to Arlington, Tex., where it becomes the Texas Rangers. The franchise accumulated mounting debt in the District, and Short refused another 10-year lease at RFK Stadium. Fans don’t take kindly to the move. They unfurl banners that read “Short Stinks” at the final game in the District, and fans invade the field, resulting in a Washington forfeit.
1981 — After a strike-shortened regular season, the Expos advance to the playoffs for the first time but lose in the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is the team’s only playoff appearance while playing in Montreal.
1987 — The Twins defeat the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to three, to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1924.
1991 — The Twins win the World Series, four games to three, over the Atlanta Braves.
1994 — With the Expos leading the NL East and on track to win 105 games, a players’ strike cuts the season short and eliminates the playoffs. Attendance at Expos games craters. The team’s attendance, which averaged 22,390 fans in 1994, drops to 11,295 per game in 1998.
2002 — MLB buys the Expos from owner Jeffrey Loria with an eye toward eliminating the franchise or relocating it. After a new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union spares the team from the chopping block, a new city for the team is the final option. The league authorizes the Expos to play 22 games per year in 2003 and 2004 in Puerto Rico.
2005 - present: Baseball is back
2005 — The Expos move to Washington and become the Nationals. The team plays at RFK Stadium and surprises the sport with an 81-81 record in its first season in the District.
2008 — Nationals Park opens in the once-desolate Navy Yard neighborhood in Southeast Washington. The Nationals defeat the Atlanta Braves, 3-2, in the first regular season game at the stadium on Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run. “We’ve waited for so long for a place that can be our own,” Zimmerman says. “There are just too many people on this team that are tired of being mediocre.”
2010 — The Rangers advance to the franchise’s first World Series but lose to the San Francisco Giants, four games to one.
2011 — The Rangers return to the World Series but lose to the Cardinals in seven games.
2012 — The Nationals post their first winning season in the District with a 98-64 record that tops the NL East. They lose to the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, three games to two, in the first playoff heartbreaker for D.C. fans.
2014 — The Nationals win the NL East again with a 96-66 record but lose again in the NLDS to the San Francisco Giants.
2016 — The Nationals win the division for a third time in five years but again cannot make it out of the divisional round, losing to the Dodgers, three games to two.
2017 — The Nationals win the division again with a 97-65 record but lose again in the NLDS in five games, this time to the Chicago Cubs.
2019 — The Rangers finish the season in third place in the AL West with a 78-84 record.
2019 — The Twins are swept in three games by the Yankees in the ALDS after posting a 101-61 record and winning the AL Central.
2019 — The Nationals lose 31 of their first 50 games but rally to post a 93-69 record and earn a wild-card berth. They defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in that single-game playoff to advance to the NLDS, where they dispatch the Dodgers in five games, then sweep the Cardinals in four games to win the franchise’s first NL pennant.